1. Connecticut (3-1, 0-0; LW- 1):
UConn hasn’t been amazing, but the Huskies are still the clear No. 1 team in the AAC, thanks to the rest of the league struggling. They lost to an underrated West Virginia team (now ranked 21st) in the finals of the Puerto Rico Tip-off, but got a hard-fought win against Dayton earlier in the week. This team fouls a lot, but Ryan Boatright has been the scorer everyone thought he’d be, and freshman Daniel Hamilton has exploded onto the scene. Forward Kentan Facey does the unheralded dirty work under the hoop. The Huskies face a big test when No. 7 Texas visits Gampel Pavilion on Sunday.
2. Cincinnati (4-0, 0-0; LW- 4):
Here’s the drop-off after UConn. But Mick Cronin deserves a lot of credit for getting this inexperienced team full of new faces to play well in the early going. They haven’t played anyone great (best win was against Morehead State), but I like what I’ve seen from Octavius Ellis and freshman Gary Clark. But a different player has been the key guy in each win. Cronin has to love that. His Bearcats are still playing suffocating defense (49.3 ppg allowed). The soft early schedule is a blessing for him, but it gets tougher. They get Middle Tennessee State in the first round of the Emerald Coast Classic, but a stretch in December with games at Nebraska and at home versus San Deigo State and VCU will be telling.
3. Memphis (1-1, 0-0; LW- 2):
It’s hard to judge a team after playing just two games. Opening against Wichita State is no easy task for such an inexperienced team, but a win over 0-5 Prairie View A&M isn’t anything to get excited about either. After a terrible game against the Shockers, Shaq Goodwin was not in the starting lineup for the Tigers, but he scored 16 off the bench. Memphis draws Baylor in the first round of the Las Vegas Invitational on Thanksgiving night. It’s too early to call that game a measuring stick, but a win would give this young squad a lot of confidence.
4. Temple (3-2, 0-0; LW- 6):
This is an interesting one. Temple has shot the ball terribly (34.6 percent), but still has won three games. The Owls lost to Duke by 20, but held dominant center Jahlil Okafor to 7-of-20 shooting and point guard Tyus Jones to 1-of-7. Then they held UNLV to 38 percent shooting in a seven-point loss. That’s great defensive progress a season after giving up nearly 80 points per game. I have to give the Owls credit for winning despite playing far from their best. They have a chance to put together a complete performance against lowly LIU-Brooklyn on Sunday.
5. SMU (3-3, 0-0; LW- 3):
The Mustangs can’t get out of their own way. Turnovers doomed them against a bad Indiana team and against Arkansas, a game they really needed. SMU has shot the ball just fine (48 percent), but the turnovers and the lack of aggressiveness on defense negates that. Keith Frazier’s recent hot streak is a great sign, but as Larry Brown put it, he has too many players playing like deer in headlights. A long stretch of home games before heading to Michigan should help get some confidence back.
6. Tulsa (3-3, 0-0; LW- 6):
Frank Haith has played a little better after the opener loss to Oral Roberts. The Golden Hurricane held Auburn to 35 points last week and give up 55.4 points per game, although star guard James Woodard’s numbers aren’t what I thought they’d be (12.4 ppg, 36.7 percent shooting). A win Wednesday against Oklahoma State would have given Tulsa a lot of momentum heading into matchups against ranked foes Wichita State (away) and Creighton (home) next week.
7. Houston (2-1, 0-0; LW- 7):
The Cougars were tamed by a very good Harvard team 84-63, but face a soft nonconference slate the rest of the way, with Boise State being the only challenge. Houston needs to shoot the ball better, but should have plenty of open looks with upcoming games against Texas- Pan American and Abilene Christian.
8. Tulane (3-1, 0-0; LW- 9):
Three straight wins off a loss in the opener is a good sign, albeit against poor teams. The trio of Louis Dabney, Jonathan Stark and Jay Hook continues to lead the Green Wave, which has put up a lot of points against said poor teams (as they should). Southeast Louisiana is up next.
9. East Carolina (3-3, 0-0; LW- 8):
The Pirates put an end to their horrid defense with a 58-52 win against defending CBI tournament champ Fresno State, and held Wisconsin- Green Bay to 66 points in a loss. They kept it close with Hawaii, losing 75-73. Freshman guard B.J. Tyson leads the team in scoring, and ECU has scored a good amount of points this season. If the improved defense continues, the Pirates should stay out of the bottom tier of the conference. Their next game is on Sunday against Central Connecticut State.
10.Central Florida (3-1, 0-0; LW- 10):
Wins against Division II Eckerd College and South Carolina Upstate were closer than they should have been (Eckerd led at halftime), and Davidson hung 95 points on the Knights in their one loss. Games against Bethune-Cookman and Georgia Southern give UCF a chance to dominate a lowly opponent, which it was unable to do in its first three games.
11. South Florida (3-1, 0-0; LW- 11):
The Bulls got an overtime win against UAB and fought hard in a 68-65 loss at North Carolina State. Orlando Antigua is doing way more with this team than I thought he would. Forward Chris Perry was great as a freshman last year, and he’s gotten even better this year, averaging 15 points and 6.6 rebounds per game. A home game against Jacksonville and a visit to Alabama are up next.